Anontology 1: Theory of Dark Matter

Imagine an unspecified object. This ‘object’ image is a variable the value of which we cannot deduce. If we introduce this variable into a series of relations with other specified objects, we can determine that value and hence make definite or specific claims about it. Yet we will refrain from doing so. Let’s hold this object in reserve, so to speak, and grant it only the minimal qualification of existentiality: this object has a value that can be judged in terms of its existence or non-existence.

Yet we cannot definitely or definitively make such a judgment until we can relate this object to the field within which it is implicated as existing or not; or until we can attribute to this object some qualitative properties that derive from its constitution or interior composition. The object as variable must be related to an exterior field within which it is implicated, or an interior field of which it is composed: it is by virtue of these relations that we can deduce the existential value of this variable-object.

Yet we will hold such judgments in suspense by refusing any such relational qualification (and yes, the inward relation of an object to its components is still a relation, and even a relation of exteriority). We do not do so for the sake of some thought experiment or theoretical game. Rather, we want to raise the real question of the existential status of unqualified variables. We have already allowed that this variable-object is minimally taken in terms of an existential value, though this value is unknown. Yet without any specification or qualification, the variable-object which admittedly has some existential valence, which admittedly exists in some mode or magnitude (even negative), only has the effect of suspending the existential status we have admitted of it. As an unqualified variable, one which admittedly exists somehow, in some way, the variable-object exists in the manner of having an unspecifiable, indeterminable existence or existential value. Far from being a mark of epistemological limitation, this is a positive claim on the object, one which converts the suspense of value itself into a value.

This value of suspense has the peculiar, even paradoxical power to challenge or suspend existential judgment more generally. If we are unable to judge the existential value of a variable, this variable as undetermined obtains a specific value as indeterminate. This appears to be a rather elementary philosophical gesture, but in this case it has devastating implications for philosophy. Given that this value is not inscribed within existential coordinates (existence-nonexistence, degrees of existence or kinds of existence, et cetera), but rather enacts within these coordinates the suspension of their efficacy, the allowance of this value has the effect of challenging the complete or autonomous sufficiency of existential determination. If this is the case – that existentiality or existence-nonexistence are not determinations exhaustive of the Real – then (ontological) philosophy apparently falters. Philosophy must either renounce all ontological claims, or have recourse to a non-philosophical theory.

Can ontological philosophy simply deny the claim that the unspecified variable has an existential status specific to it? If it does, it again must renounce its own sufficiency in grasping the Real, because it would thereby admit the non-exhaustive power of existential decision. So in the first case, we grant the variable an existential value, and thereby suspend the efficacy of existential judgments. Or in the second case, we refuse to grant the variable an existential variable, and thereby admit the insufficiency of existential judgment in the case of the variable.

This is the problem of dark matter, or the unknown unknown: not simply that which is unknown, i.e., the value of a variable, but moreover, that which we do not know that we do not know. If the variable had a relative specification, or if it was related to non-variable terms, then we would know it as an unknown in the given context. Yet because there is no context within which the variable appears as unknown or unspecified, we cannot grant it the relative existential status of having an unknown value. Dark matter is the name of an unknown value that is itself unknown, that we are not even aware of qua knowable (or unknowable).

We cannot say whether or not dark matter exists, but if we accept that it should in principle be submitted to existential judgment, it becomes clear that such a judgment is impossible. We cannot specify the existential value of dark matter because dark matter is by definition non-specific and non-related; it has no context, neither that of an external field nor an internal composition. It is related neither as a part to a whole, nor as a whole to its parts. So, if we are to enforce the principled applicability of existential judgment, we must admit of it a status as existentially suspended, as indifferent to any existential judgment. We cannot say that it does not exist any more than that it does. It is rather foreclosed to the coordinates of existentiality.

In proposing the circulation of dark matter as a non-conceptual symbol effectuating within existential judgment the real suspension of such judgment, or the foreclosure constitutive of such judgment, we propose a shift from ontology in general, as a philosophical determination, to something like an anontology (anon-tology or an-ontology), a material ontology or ontology as material for (non-ontological) thought. This is not a variant of ontology or species of ontology so much as a kind of ‘state of exception’ of ontology, in which the ontological law is suspended while the force of this law is still in effect. In such a suspended state, there is no specification of ontological materials or of existential values, but rather a general anonymity of materiality regarding its existential specificity. Anontology is a kind of crypto-ontology, liberating the force of ontological thought from its self-imposed criterion of sufficiency to the Real.

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3 Responses to Anontology 1: Theory of Dark Matter

  1. Pingback: Dark Matter and Power « Larval Subjects .

  2. Pingback: On Spectral Realism « Complete Lies.

  3. Pingback: Speculative Realism vs. Specular Realism « Planomenology

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